The way meerkats help one another out is a strategy to survive, and the way they interact has become complex and refined over time
In a meerkat mob, only the dominant male is allowed to ate with the alpha female, meaning that their new-borns have only the strongest genes. When meerkats were evolving millions of years ago, those with the instinct to survive were the ones that could produce offspring with that same instinct, making each new generation stronger than the last. When faced with challenges like drought, extreme temperatures, or predation, only the quick-thinking members survived long enough to reproduce. Their young were born wired with genes to help them survive, and over time meerkats developed the complex societies we see today.
Unlike a lot of animals that just look out for themselves, meerkats have evolved to live in altruistic groups. This means that they help each other out without expecting a reward and rely on others for protection. The helpers in a mob care for the young, dig tunnels and stand guard for the good of the entire group. Looking out for each other is the best method they’ve found to survive, and keeping watch for predators is what they are best at. Meerkats are more vigilant when there are babies in the group that need protection, and when a predator comes they seek to give the others advance warning, rather than just running away.
Meerkats give different warning calls depending on what kind of predator is approaching, letting the rest of the mob figure out the best way to escape. Meerkat predators include birds, reptiles and carnivores, so knowing the approaching danger is coming from above requires a different response to escaping a slithering snake. This waning system is like a language, and it has developed over time to give every single meerkat the best chances of survival. Calling out to warn others uses very little energy and knowing what kind of predator is in the area helps meerkats take immediate action. This is just the beginning of understanding meerkats and we are yet to uncover the rest of their language.
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